Achievement/Growth

Teaching Environmental Sustainability - Model My Watershed (Collaborative Research: Kerlin)

This project will develop curricula for environmental/geoscience disciplines for high-school classrooms. The Model My Watershed (MMW) v2 app will bring new environmental datasets and geospatial capabilities into the classroom, to provide a cloud-based learning and analysis platform accessible from a web browser on any computer or mobile device, thus overcoming the cost and technical obstacles to integrating Geographic Information System technology in secondary education.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1418133
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2014 to Fri, 08/31/2018
Project Evaluator: 
Education Design
Full Description: 

This project will develop curricula for environmental/geoscience disciplines for high-school classrooms. It will teach a systems approach to problem solving through hands-on activities based on local data and issues. This will provide an opportunity for students to act in their communities while engaging in solving problems they find interesting, and require synthesis of prior learning. The Model My Watershed (MMW) v2 app will bring new environmental datasets and geospatial capabilities into the classroom, to provide a cloud-based learning and analysis platform accessible from a web browser on any computer or mobile device, thus overcoming the cost and technical obstacles to integrating Geographic Information System technology in secondary education. It will also integrate new low-cost environmental sensors that allow students to collect and upload their own data and compare them to data visualized on the new MMW v2. This project will transform the ability of teachers throughout the nation to introduce hands-on geospatial analysis activities in the classroom, to explore a wide range of geographic, social, political and environmental concepts and problems beyond the project's specific curricular focus.

The Next Generation Science Standards state that authentic research experiences are necessary to enhance STEM learning. A combination of computational modeling and data collection and analysis will be integrated into this project to address this need. Placing STEM content within a place- and problem-based framework enhances STEM learning. Students, working in groups, will not only design solutions, they will be required to defend them within the application portal through the creation of multimedia products such as videos, articles and web 2.0 presentations. The research plan tests the overall hypothesis that students are much more likely to develop an interest in careers that require systems thinking and/or spatial thinking, such as environmental sciences, if they are provided with problem-based, place-based, hands-on learning experiences using real data, authentic geospatial analysis tools and models, and opportunities to collect their own supporting data. The MMW v2 web app will include a data visualization tool that streams data related to the modeling application. This database will be modified to integrate student data so teachers and students can easily compare their data to data collected by other students and the government and research data. All data will be easily downloadable so that students can increase the use of real data to support the educational exercises. As a complement to the model-based activities, the project partners will design, manufacture, and distribute a low-cost environmental monitoring device, called the Watershed Tracker. This device will allow students to collect real-world data to enhance their understanding of watershed dynamics. Featuring temperature, light, humidity, and soil moisture sensors, the Watershed Tracker will be designed to connect to tablets and smartphones through the audio jack common to all of these devices.

Taking Games to School: Exploratory Study to Support Game-based Teaching and Learning In High-School Science Classes

This project is building a set of software tools, including a tool for annotating screen recordings of activities in games, a teacher data dashboard for information about students' in-game learning, and tools to help teachers customize activities in games to better align with curricular standards. The project will find out whether these new tools can enhance teaching and/or learning. 

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1415284
Funding Period: 
Tue, 07/15/2014 to Sat, 06/30/2018
Full Description: 

Research shows that educational games can enhance students' science learning, but current work leaves teachers dependent on researchers and games companies to provide good games and game-based curricula. This project aims to study how teachers can be involved in making science learning games more effective, and how educational science games can better support good teaching. This project is building a set of software tools, including a tool for annotating screen recordings of activities in games, a teacher data dashboard for information about students' in-game learning, and tools to help teachers customize activities in games to better align with curricular standards. It will conduct studies with successful research-based educational games for learning science, and popularly available educational games from websites such as BrainPop, in a network of teachers who have experience using 'canned' games in their classrooms. The project will find out whether these new tools can enhance teaching and/or learning. It will also help develop a list of the types of customization options teachers need in order to be able to effectively use educational games in their classrooms. If successful, this research could point the way towards new tools that let teachers create activities that turn any game into an educational game, and to better use existing educational games in their classrooms. This could greatly speed up our ability to deliver high-quality learning experiences through educational games.

This project involves a participatory design process in which a small number of experienced teachers will feed into a principled, iterative refinement of prototypes of the tools (annotation, data dashboard, and level-builder) to be prototyped within the Brainplay suite. In the beta testing phase, a hierarchical linear model analysis will be conducted on both student and teacher outcomes in 25 classrooms. In addition to the quantitative analysis, qualitative studies involving classroom observations, focus groups, and teacher journaling will be conducted to examine impact on teaching practices and refine the functional specifications. Project dissemination will take place through the community around the previously-developed Leveling Up games (played around 10,000 times per week), and through existing professional networks such as Edmodo. The project will also work within the games community to help inform possible approaches to logging learning data and allowing teacher customization across all games.

Supports for Science and Mathematics Learning in Pre-Kindergarten Dual Language Learners: Designing and Expanding a Professional Development System

SciMath-DLL is an innovative preschool professional development (PD) model that integrates supports for dual language learners (DLLs) with high quality science and mathematics instructional offerings. It engages teachers with workshops, classroom-based coaching, and professional learning communities. Based on initial evidence of promise, the SciMath-DLL project will expand PD offerings to include web-based materials.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1417040
Funding Period: 
Tue, 07/01/2014 to Sat, 06/30/2018
Full Description: 

The 4-year project, Supports for Science and Mathematics Learning in Pre-Kindergarten Dual Language Learners: Designing and Expanding a Professional Development System (SciMath-DLL), will address a number of educational challenges. Global society requires citizens and a workforce that are literate in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), but many U.S. students remain ill prepared in these areas. At the same time, the children who fill U.S. classrooms increasingly speak a non-English home language, with the highest concentration in the early grades. Many young children are also at risk for lack of school readiness in language, literacy, mathematics, and science due to family background factors. Educational efforts to offset early risk factors can be successful, with clear links between high quality early learning experiences and later academic outcomes. SciMath-DLL will help teachers provide effective mathematics and science learning experiences for their students. Early educational support is critical to assure that all students, regardless of socioeconomic or linguistic background, learn the STEM content required to become science and mathematics literate. Converging lines of research suggest that participation in sustained mathematics and science learning activities could enhance the school readiness of preschool dual language learners. Positive effects of combining science inquiry with supports for English-language learning have been identified for older students. For preschoolers, sustained science and math learning opportunities enhance language and pre-literacy skills for children learning one language. Mathematics skills and science knowledge also predict later mathematics, science, and reading achievement. What has not been studied is the extent to which rich science and mathematics experiences in preschool lead to better mathematics and science readiness and improved language skills for preschool DLLs. Because the preschool teaching force is not prepared to support STEM learning or to provide effective supports for DLLs, professional development to improve knowledge and practice in these areas is required before children's learning outcomes can be improved.

SciMath-DLL is an innovative preschool professional development (PD) model that integrates supports for DLLs with high quality science and mathematics instructional offerings. It engages teachers with workshops, classroom-based coaching, and professional learning communities. Development and research activities incorporate cycles of design-expert review-enactment- analysis-redesign; collaboration between researcher-educator teams at all project stages; use of multiple kinds of data and data sources to establish claims; and more traditional, experimental methodologies. Based on initial evidence of promise, the SciMath-DLL project will expand PD offerings to include web-based materials, making the PD more flexible for use in a range of educational settings and training circumstances. An efficacy study will be completed to examine the potential of the SciMath-DLL resources, model, and tools to generate positive effects on teacher attitudes, knowledge, and practice for early mathematics and science and on children's readiness in these domains in settings that serve children learning two languages. By creating a suite of tools that can be used under differing educational circumstances to improve professional knowledge, skill, and practice around STEM, the project increases the number of teachers who are prepared to support children as STEM learners and, thus, the number of children who can be supported as STEM learners.

Supporting Secondary Students in Building External Models (Collaborative Research: Damelin)

This project will (1) develop and test a modeling tool and accompanying instructional materials, (2) explore how to support students in building and using models to explain and predict phenomena across a range of disciplines, and (3) document the sophistication of understanding of disciplinary core ideas that students develop when building and using models in grades 6-12. 

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1417809
Funding Period: 
Fri, 08/01/2014 to Tue, 07/31/2018
Full Description: 

The Concord Consortium and Michigan State University will collaborate to: (1) develop and test a modeling tool and accompanying instructional materials, (2) explore how to support students in building and using models to explain and predict phenomena across a range of disciplines, and (3) document the sophistication of understanding of disciplinary core ideas that students develop when building and using models in grades 6-12. By iteratively designing, developing and testing a modeling tool and instructional materials that facilitate the building of dynamic models, the project will result in exemplary middle and high school materials that use a model-based approach as well as an understanding of the potential of this approach in supporting student development of explanatory frameworks and modeling capabilities. A key goal of the project is to increase students' learning of science through modeling and to study student engagement with modeling as a scientific practice. 

The project provides the nation with middle and high school resources that support students in developing and using models to explain and predict phenomena, a central scientific and engineering practice. Because the research and development work will be carried out in schools in which students typically do not succeed in science, the products will also help produce a population of citizens capable of continuing further STEM learning and who can participate knowledgeably in public decision making. The goals of the project are to (1) develop and test a modeling tool and accompanying instructional materials, (2) explore how to support students in building, using, and revising models to explain and predict phenomena across a range of disciplines, and (3) document the sophistication of understanding of disciplinary core ideas that students develop when building and using models in grades 6-12. Using a design-based research methodology, the research and development efforts will involve multiple cycles of designing, developing, testing, and refining the systems modeling tool and the instructional materials to help students meet important learning goals related to constructing dynamic models that align with the Next Generation Science Standards. The learning research will study the effect of working with external models on student construction of robust explanatory conceptual understanding. Additionally, it will develop a set of professional development resources and teacher scaffolds to help the expanding community of teachers not directly involved in the project take advantage of the materials and strategies for maximizing the impact of the curricular materials.

Science in the Learning Gardens (SciLG): Factors that Support Racial and Ethnic Minority Students’ Success in Low-Income Middle Schools

Science in the Learning Gardens (SciLG) designs and implements curriculum aligned with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and uses school gardens as learning contexts in grade 6 (2014-2015), grade 7 (2015-2016) and grade 8 (2016-2017) in two low-income urban schools. The project investigates the extent to which SciLG activities predict students’ STEM identity, motivation, learning, and grades in science using a theoretical model of motivational development.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1418270
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2014 to Thu, 08/31/2017
Full Description: 

Science in the Learning Gardens (SciLG) will use school gardens as the context for learning at two low-income middle schools with predominantly racial and ethnic minority students in Portland, Oregon. There are thousands of gardens flourishing across the country that are underutilized as contexts for active engagement in the middle grades. School gardens provide important cultural contexts while addressing environmental and food issues. SciLG will bring underrepresented youth into gardens at a critical time in their intellectual development to broaden the factors that support motivation to pursue STEM careers and educational pathways. The project will adapt, organize, and align two disparate sets of existing resources into the project curriculum: 6th grade science curriculum resources, and garden-based lessons and units. The curriculum will be directly aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). 

The project will use a design-based research approach to refine instruction and formative assessment, and to investigate factors for student success in science proficiency and their motivational engagement in relation to the garden curriculum. The curriculum will be pilot-tested during the first year of the project in five sixth-grade classes with 240 students in Portland Public Schools. Students will be followed longitudinally in grades 7 and 8 in years 2 and 3 respectively, as curricular integration continues. The research team will support participating teachers each year in using their schools' gardens, and study how this context can serve as an effective pedagogical strategy for NGSS-aligned science curriculum. Academic learning will be measured by assessments of student progress towards the end of middle-school goals defined by NGSS. Motivation will be measured by a validated motivational engagement instrument. SciLG results along with the motivational engagement instrument will be disseminated widely through a variety of professional networks to stimulate implementation nationwide.

Promoting Active Learning Strategies in Biology (PALS)

This project examines the potential of two research-based and college-tested active learning strategies in high school classrooms: Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL) and Peer Instruction by adapting the strategies for implementation in biology classes, with the goal of determining which strategy shows the most promise for increasing student achievement and attitudes toward science.

Award Number: 
1417735
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2014 to Thu, 08/31/2017
Full Description: 

The use of active learning strategies has long been advocated in the sciences, but high school science instruction remains highly didactic across the country. This project addresses this longstanding concern by examining the potential of two research-based and college-tested learning strategies in high school classrooms: Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL) and Peer Instruction. The POGIL strategy was developed initially for chemistry classes, and Peer Instruction was developed within physics classes. These two learning strategies will be adapted for implementation in biology classes, with the goal of determining which strategy shows the most promise for increasing student achievement and attitudes toward science. The project will also study the influence of these instructional strategies on teacher beliefs about active learning and the contributions of these beliefs on student success in biology. Creation of the professional development model and materials for this project bring together high school biology teachers, university biology faculty, and science education specialists.

The project will conduct design and development research to iteratively develop the instructional materials through a collaboration of high school teachers and college faculty members experienced in using the instructional approaches being compared. Adaptation of the learning strategies for use in biology was chosen because biology is the science course most often taught across schools in the country, and it is required for graduation in the state where this project is being conducted. To compare the outcomes of the two instructional approaches, 42 teacher pairs will be randomly assigned to one of three treatment groups: POGIL, Peer Instruction, or traditional instruction. Outcomes of the instructional approaches will be measured in terms of conceptual gains among teachers and students, attitudes toward science, personal agency beliefs, and instructional implementation fidelity.

Learning Trajectories in Grades K-2 Children's Understanding of Algebraic Relationships

This project will use classroom-based research to teach children about important algebraic concepts and to carefully explore how children come to understand these concepts. The primary goal is to identify levels of sophistication in children's thinking as it develops through instruction. Understanding how children's thinking develops will provide a critical foundation for designing curricula, developing content standards, and informing educational policies.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1415509
Funding Period: 
Tue, 07/15/2014 to Thu, 06/30/2016
Full Description: 

Algebra is a central concern in school mathematics education. Its historical gatekeeper role in limiting students' career and life choices is well documented. In recent years, the response has been to reframe algebra as a K-12 endeavor. To this end, research on children's algebraic thinking in grades 3-5 shows that students can begin to understand algebraic concepts in elementary grades that they will later explore more formally. However, there is much that is unknown about how children in grades K-2 make sense of algebraic concepts appropriate for their age. This project aims to understand specific ways in which grades K-2 children begin to think algebraically. It will identify how children understand mathematical relationships, how they represent the relationships they notice, and how they use these relationships as building blocks for more sophisticated thinking. The project will use classroom-based research to teach children about important algebraic concepts and to carefully explore how children come to understand these concepts. The primary goal is to identify levels of sophistication in children's thinking as it develops through instruction. Understanding how children's thinking develops will provide a critical foundation for designing curricula, developing content standards, and informing educational policies, all in ways that can help children become successful in algebra and have wider access to STEM-related careers.

While college and career readiness standards point to the role of algebra beginning in kindergarten, the limited research base in grades K-2 restricts algebra's potential in K-2 classrooms. This project will develop cognitive foundations regarding how children learn to generalize, represent, and reason with algebraic relationships. Such findings will inform both the design of new interventions and resources to strengthen algebra learning in grades K-2 and the improvement of educational policies, practices, and resources. The project will use design research to identify: (1) learning trajectories as cognitive models of how grades K-2 children learn to generalize, represent, and reason with algebraic relationships within content dimensions where these practices can occur (e.g., generalized arithmetic); (2) critical junctures in the development of these trajectories; and (3) characteristics of tasks and instruction that facilitate movement along the trajectories. The project's design will include the use of classroom teaching experiments that incorporate: (1) instructional design and planning; (2) ongoing analysis of classroom events; and (3) retrospective analysis of all data sources generated in the course of the experiment. This will allow for the development and empirical validation of hypothesized trajectories in students' understanding of algebraic relationships. This exploratory research will contribute critical early-grade cognitive foundations of K-12 teaching and learning algebra that can help democratize access to student populations historically marginalized by a traditional approach to teaching algebra. Moreover, the project will occur in demographically diverse school districts, thereby increasing the generalizability of findings across settings.

GRIDS: Graphing Research on Inquiry with Data in Science

The Graphing Research on Inquiry with Data in Science (GRIDS) project will investigate strategies to improve middle school students' science learning by focusing on student ability to interpret and use graphs. GRIDS will undertake a comprehensive program to address the need for improved graph comprehension. The project will create, study, and disseminate technology-based assessments, technologies that aid graph interpretation, instructional designs, professional development, and learning materials.

Award Number: 
1418423
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2014 to Sat, 08/31/2019
Full Description: 

The Graphing Research on Inquiry with Data in Science (GRIDS) project is a four-year full design and development proposal, addressing the learning strand, submitted to the DR K-12 program at the NSF. GRIDS will investigate strategies to improve middle school students' science learning by focusing on student ability to interpret and use graphs. In middle school math, students typically graph only linear functions and rarely encounter features used in science, such as units, scientific notation, non-integer values, noise, cycles, and exponentials. Science teachers rarely teach about the graph features needed in science, so students are left to learn science without recourse to what is inarguably a key tool in learning and doing science. GRIDS will undertake a comprehensive program to address the need for improved graph comprehension. The project will create, study, and disseminate technology-based assessments, technologies that aid graph interpretation, instructional designs, professional development, and learning materials.

GRIDS will start by developing the GRIDS Graphing Inventory (GGI), an online, research-based measure of graphing skills that are relevant to middle school science. The project will address gaps revealed by the GGI by designing instructional activities that feature powerful digital technologies including automated guidance based on analysis of student generated graphs and student writing about graphs. These materials will be tested in classroom comparison studies using the GGI to assess both annual and longitudinal progress. Approximately 30 teachers selected from 10 public middle schools will participate in the project, along with approximately 4,000 students in their classrooms. A series of design studies will be conducted to create and test ten units of study and associated assessments, and a minimum of 30 comparison studies will be conducted to optimize instructional strategies. The comparison studies will include a minimum of 5 experiments per term, each with 6 teachers and their 600-800 students. The project will develop supports for teachers to guide students to use graphs and science knowledge to deepen understanding, and to develop agency and identity as science learners.

From Elementary Generalist to Mathematics Specialist: Examining Teacher Practice and Student Outcomes in Departmental and Self-Contained Models

This research investigates student mathematics learning outcomes at the elementary level in relation to teacher expertise (elementary teachers with math specialist certification versus generally prepared elementary teachers) and school organization (departmentalized versus self-contained mathematics classrooms). Findings will provide evidence of the impact of content-specific teacher expertise and a departmentalized school organizational model that offers students access to well-qualified teachers of mathematics with no additional staffing costs.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1414438
Funding Period: 
Fri, 08/01/2014 to Tue, 07/31/2018
Full Description: 

This research investigates student mathematics learning outcomes at the elementary level in relation to teacher expertise (elementary teachers with math specialist certification versus generally prepared elementary teachers) and school organization (departmentalized versus self-contained mathematics classrooms). University of Missouri researchers will organize and facilitate the research in multiple Missouri public and private school sites. Findings will provide evidence of the impact of content-specific teacher expertise and a departmentalized school organizational model that offers students access to well-qualified teachers of mathematics with no additional staffing costs. To investigate the impact of teacher expertise and school organization on student learning experimental, quasi-experimental, and qualitative designs are employed. Specifically, 80 teachers who have earned state certification as Elementary Mathematics Specialists (hereafter, "EMS teachers") will be selected to participate in the study. Employing a randomized experimental design, half of the EMS teachers will be assigned to teach in a departmental model (Condition 1) in their school, teaching two or more sections of grade 4 mathematics. The other half will remain in generalist (hereafter, self-contained) positions (Condition 2) in their school, teaching all regular subjects to a single class of students. A comparison group of 40 non-EMS teachers with self-contained teaching assignments (Condition 3) will be selected from the same schools in Condition 2. The Smarter Balanced assessment will provide a baseline measure of students' prior achievement in grade 3 and also a measure of the mathematics achievement of grade 4 students taught by the 120 teachers in the study. The project team will analyze student-level mathematics scores linked with specific teachers.

Improving student achievement in mathematics at the elementary level is particularly challenging due to the way elementary students are generally organized for instruction (e.g., one teacher responsible for teaching all subjects to 25-30 students). Because elementary teachers must be knowledgeable about many content areas, they rarely study mathematics in depth, even though there is a growing body of evidence showing the impact of specialized mathematical knowledge for teaching on student learning outcomes. This study carefully researches an alternative model, where elementary teachers with special training in mathematics teaching and learning are assigned more than one single class of students for mathematics instruction. Findings from the research will provide evidence about the impact of both certification as an elementary mathematics specialist and teaching in a departmental assignment on student learning. The results will help school and district leaders better plan for assignment of staff to provide all students with access to high quality mathematics instruction.

Empowering Teachers through VideoReview

This project  will develop a video recording and analysis system called VideoReView (VRV) that allows grade four science teachers to record, tag, and analyze video in their classroom in real time. The investigators will then study and enhance the system in the context of professional learning communities of teachers. 

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1415898
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2014 to Fri, 08/31/2018
Full Description: 

This project represents a collaboration between TERC and IntuVision to develop a video recording and analysis system called VideoReView (VRV) that allows grade four science teachers to record, tag, and analyze video in their classroom in real time. The system will contain a number of features---such as a sophisticated system of tagging and the automatic detection of important video segments---designed to speed and assist the teacher in its use. The investigators will then study and enhance the system in the context of professional learning communities of teachers. The system is expected to enable teachers to examine their own teaching, and that of others, in a much more dynamic and specific way and to integrate video into their ongoing structures of professional learning. To date, video analysis of teaching is out of the reach of ordinary teachers. If successful, this research could change the way teachers engage in their own profession and their understanding of, for example, student thinking and argumentation in science---something emphasized in the Next Generation Science Standards---but previously more difficult to do without being able to replay and refine teaching episodes.

The complete VRV System will be tested with 18 Grade four teachers and approximately 400 students from six schools in the Newton Public School System in a Boston suburb. The emphasis of the study will be on the ability of teachers to use the system with little outside assistance, means of enhancing its features and usability, and its integration into professional learning communities. A mixed methods research design will be used that includes surveys and interviews. The study outcomes will be disseminated through publications and conference presentations.

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